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Saturday, 28 October, 2000, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Trimble hardens arms stance
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has defeated another attempt by dissidents to force his party to withdraw from Northern Ireland's powersharing Executive by hardening his stance on IRA arms decommissioning.
Delegates at Belfast's Waterfront Hall rejected proposals from the anti-agreement faction led by the Lagan Valley MP and voted in favour of allowing the first minister and his UUP colleagues to remain in government.
Mr Donaldson's proposal involved a UUP withdrawal from government if the IRA failed to begin actual decommissioning by the end of November.
An unsuccessful attempt was made to broker a compromise during an adjournment but in the end it was decided by a straight vote between the two proposals.
However, Mr Trimble's victory could be overshadowed by difficulties with the SDLP and Sinn Fein caused by the hard line proposals on decommissioning which he put to the meeting.
He said Sinn Fein ministers would not be nominated to attend North-South ministerial meetings.
This sanction would be lifted once the IRA began substantial engagement with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning headed by General John de Chastelain.
If either government or any other party blocked these proposals, Ulster Unionist ministers would respond by withdrawing from selected NSMC and BIC meetings.
He also proposed a formal review by the governments if there was no progress and a moratorium on policing reforms pending an "assured peace" .
The UUP leader said progress would be reviewed in early January.
He told delegates that Prime Minister Tony Blair was backing his proposal that the weapons body take a "more pro-active role" in fulfilling its mandate.
The body should provide regular reports, set deadlines and prescribe timetables on re-engagement with the IRA, decommissioning procedures, the commencement of the process and when it would be completed.
After the result was announced at approximately 1450 BST, the UUP leader said the differences between himself and Mr Donaldson were "merely tactical".
He said the latest crisis had been brought about the failure of the IRA to deliver on the promise it made in May.
"We are in these difficulties only because of the default of republicans."
He said the measures he had proposed would have been implemented earlier but for the calling of the UUC meeting.
"I considered for tactical reasons that I should hold back this important measure which, had I done it before this meeting, it would simply have been pocketed by my opponents.
"This is a matter of saying to Sinn Fein that failure to keeping your promises is not a cost free option."
The issue of decommissioning and concern over proposed reforms to policing have caused deep divisions within the UUP since devolution returned to Northern Ireland in May.
"We did not get everything we wanted but David Trimble has moved very firmly on to our ground."
He said he would give the process "two months" and if there had not been actual decommissioning, he would be back in January.
On Thursday, it emerged that the re-inspection of a number of IRA arms dumps had taken place, but party dissidents did not feel this went far enough.
The body overseeing decommissioning also said it could not report any progress on actual decommissioning, since the renewal of contact with the IRA in June.
Secretary of State Peter Mandelson expressed his delight at Mr Trimble's victory and urged nationalists not to "over-react" to the new strategy being proposed by the UUP leader.
"If you portray this as a recipe for collapse, it could well be a self fulfilling prophesy."
He said he would not oppose a review of the Good Friday Agreement if there were problems and if all the parties were in favour.
He also indicated he would be arranging a meeting with David Trimble in the coming week.
Republic of Ireland foreign minister Brian Cowen has said he is "concerned" over the outcome of the meeting.
He said he would be meeting Mr Mandelson soon and added that the two prime ministers would also be in contact.
Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said the approach now being adapted by Ulster Unionists was "ill-advised" and "in clear breach of the Good Friday Agreement".
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